NewsCapitol Watch


Ghost guns, youth violence and drugs among issues in final days of Colorado's legislative session

Lawmakers send ghost gun ban to governor, kill drug-induced homicide bill
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Posted at 6:53 AM, May 08, 2023

DENVER — Colorado lawmakers are spending some of their final hours focused on guns, youth violence, and drugs.

Lawmakers passed a bill to ban so-called “ghost guns,” which they say have become a big problem.

"We're seeing an increased use of ghost guns by criminals because you don't have to have a background check. So, it's a way for them to undermine and evade what is required to own a gun,” said State Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, who sponsored the bill.

If signed by the governor, the bill would require current ghost gun owners to have to get their guns serialized by Jan. 1. They’ll also likely have to undergo a background check.

While many law enforcement leaders support that bill, they’re opposed to another bill to raise the minimum age prosecutors can charge a juvenile with a crime from 10 to 13.

The sponsors of HB23-1249 say it will get young offenders the help they need much sooner outside the juvenile justice system.

“When we're catching this at the front end, when kids are young and impressionable, this is the best time to have that influence and show that change of behavior,” said State Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver.

Ghost guns, youth violence and drugs among issues in final days of Colorado's legislative session

Aurora Interim Police Chief Art Acevedo said the bill will lead to older criminals exploiting young kids, getting them to commit violent crimes because they won’t be prosecuted.

“Now we’re going to see young kids,” said Acevado. “And you know who’s going to have to live with that when those police officers end up getting a shooting with a 12-year-old because we just opened the door to that kind of behavior? It’s our police officers.”

Prosecutors would still be able to charge youth accused of murder.

The bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

When it comes to drugs, lawmakers considered a bill to allow prosecutors to charge someone with a felony if they supply fentanyl to someone who dies from an overdose.

“Our goal is to really try to make sure that, if someone deals these drugs, and kills someone in our community, that there is a significant consequence there so that that family has justice,” said State Sen. Kyle Mullica, D-Adams County, the bill’s sponsor.

The bill passed the Senate but died in a House committee.

Opponents say it would have caused more harm.

“I think that bill is similar to most drug-induced homicide bills and laws, they don't actually protect people,” said Anaya Robinson, with the ACLU of Colorado, which opposed the bill. "In most cases, they'll increase overdose rates because people who are with someone while overdosing have so much fear around getting prosecuted with a felony charge if they're on the scene when help arrives for that overdose."

Lawmakers have until Monday night to adjourn.